Here are my speaking notes, below, from this afternoon's Etobicoke York Community Council hearing on a condominium development at 34-50 Southport Street in my Toronto neighbourhood. Quite unfortunately, the application by the developer passed with the support of my local councillor, Sarah Doucette. I attended with the South Kingsway Neighbourhood Committee and with many other residents who filled the council room to oppose the development.
We didn't win, and will no doubt carry on to next steps. It is really a psychological barrier that's been broken with this one. If it ultimately succeeds, there will be two major new towers north of the Queeensway in the west end and a horrible precedent has been set.
This is, in many ways, a snapshot of what is happening throughout Toronto. There are three 80 storey towers just proposed for the King Street neighbourhood, there is a major development proposed for the Humbertown area and signs are all across the lawns in Etobicoke. Stay tuned.
Councillors, City Staff & members of the community, my name is Nancy Leblanc. I am a resident of Swansea, residing on [edited out], minutes away from the proposed Southport condo development that you have before you today for consideration. My house was built in 1929 and I mention that to give you a sense of the well established nature of this area into which this two tower condo development is proposed.
I support the position of the South Kingsway Neighbourhood Committee that has been previously set out today, encapsulated by the slogan, “One less Tower, Tons less traffic.” I would respectfully ask of this Council that you support the residents of this neighbourhood community and adopt that position, for 3 reasons.
1. This development proposal is not the right thing to do for the Swansea community because it totally undermines the Swansea Secondary Plan, which is the foundational planning document for the Swansea neighbourhood.1. Turning to my first point, the Swansea Secondary Plan. It is a careful, balanced Official Plan policy that touches on all aspects of development in this neighbourhood with provisions on apartment neighbourhoods, employment areas, park spaces, and the specific Southport site. It is the most relevant planning material in front of you.
2. The $1.4 million cash payment to the City cannot compensate the existing local residents for the value of what they are losing should this full development proceed.
3. The City of Toronto’s intensification policies do not apply to the Swansea area and Southport street site.
In each part of the Swansea Secondary plan, the need to retain low density development is paramount. In section 4.2 pertaining to “Employment Areas,” for example, the plan says this:
“In order to ensure the continued compatibility between industrial and adjacent residential and commercial buildings and to maintain the low scale nature of development in this area, it is the policy of Council to pass by-laws limiting the heights of buildings.”Further, in section 5.3 on Parks and Open Space Areas, for example, the Swansea Plan speaks of the need for any development to maintain and where possible enhance views of Lake Ontario EVEN from the lands at the rear of 2155 Bloor Street West.
And of course - Section 6 of the Swansea Secondary Plan pertaining to the Southport site - is explicit in prohibiting a density greater than 2 times the lot area. It also requires any new development to have a minimum of 2,385 square metres of retail and service use, as my fellow citizens have pointed out today. The developer’s proposal - offering a minimum of 1300 square metres to a maximum of 2,200 square metres - breaches this requirement, and does not even reflect the compromise of 2,205 square metres which the residents and the developer agreed to during good faith community meetings.
What the developer seeks to do, in fact, is to double the density permitted in the Southport site from 2X lot area to 4 X lot area, without any sensitivity to the rest of the Swansea plan.
You will see in the Final Report in front of you that the developer references, on page 44, the surrounding neighbourhood context, speaking of the new towers to the south. But the neighbourhood context for this proposal is Southport, which is north of the Queensway. There is a careful layout of the 4 apartment buildings to the north of the Southport site that don’t obstruct each other’s views or cast shadows on each other. There are purposely low level condominium buildings to the south and in the adjacent low density employment area.
The layout of Swansea and the provisions in the Swansea plan tell us that low density, low height developments are what are explicitly contemplated throughout this well-established neighbourhood.
Let’s keep it that way. What is south of the Queensway should stay south of the Queensway. We have our own well-balanced plan for Southport and the surrounding community which requires low density development. Where change is needed, it is incremental change that is provided for, reflected in building transitions and land uses that are respectful of each other. What the South Kingsway Neighbourhood Committee has proposed allows that balance to be retained in a respectful, one building compromise.
2. My second point is regarding the cash payment of $1.4 million by the developer to the City, as part of this proposal.
Simply, this payment cannot compensate current local residents for the value of what they are losing should this full development proceed.
You have heard some of what residents have said. Whether it is a loss of privacy, loss of their view and therefore loss of tax assessment value on their unit, loss of daylight, or increased traffic congestion…citizens are losing and the City is gaining a cash payment. There are no consultations on where to spend it, no citizen input. There is questionable democratic integrity to this payment process. In a nutshell, as the OMB held in its 2003 decision involving the Southport lands, inappropriate development should not be bought for the price of improvements.
3. Third, this area does not meet the requirements in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan for locations suitable for significant intensification, as set out in section 2.2 of the City’s Official Plan.
It is not an enumerated area designated for intensification growth, such as Downtown, the Central Waterfront, one of the Centres or Avenues.
Further, this development cannot be said to be located in an area that is well served by transit. As my friends have already set out today, this undermines the choice of this site for an intense development such as that proposed. The City’s Official Plan, in section 2.2, does however say that Neighbourhoods and Apartment Neighbourhoods are equivalent when it comes to protection from new development considerations.
In conclusion, we ask this Community Council for your support. Not everything should be up for grabs by developers in our city. We need consistency and balance in our planning. Side with we the residents who have acted in good faith to come up with a reasonable development plan that meets the standards of the well thought out Swansea Secondary Plan that protects our established community. Thank you.